Certified Health Education Specialist Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) earns a median annual salary of around $49,000, but is it worth the education and training requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a CHES is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Certified Health Education Specialist Career

A CHES is a highly professional health educator who informs the public about health concerns. Consider the pros and cons of this career to decide if becoming a CHES is the right move for you.

Pros of Being a Certified Health Education Specialist
Above average employment growth for health educators (19% between 2012-2022)*
Help inform the public about health issues*
Authority to structure health education programs*
Leadership position directing team**

Cons of Being a Certified Health Education Specialist
May require working nights and weekends*
Research-intensive*
Need to be comfortable in front of groups**
Becoming certified requires taking continuing education hours***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online, ***National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.

Career Information

Job Description

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a CHES is a certified health professional who teaches classes or speaks about healthy living and general wellness (www.bls.gov). A general health educator may work or speak at schools, colleges, nonprofit organizations and public health departments to inform groups about particular health concerns.

The health educator teaches about the preventative or lifestyle changes that can help curtail illnesses or medical issues. They may also conduct research and advocacy concerning a medical issue, which helps inform the public about lesser-known health issues or newer health trends that are discovered. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC) provides the certification exam for becoming a CHES.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The BLS predicted that all health educators would experience an employment growth rate of 19% between 2012 and 2022. This may be due to insurance companies, educational firms and government agencies hiring health educations and CHESs to provide preventive insight on illnesses and medical issues.

The median annual salary for health educators was $50,000 in 2014, according to the BLS. The lowest-earning tenth percentile of workers earned a median salary of $30,000, while the highest-earning tenth percentile of workers earned a median of $90,000.

Training Requirements

Education Requirements

Health educators, including those who hold the CHES credential, need at least a bachelor's degree in a related area, such as health education, public health or health promotion. The BLS also notes that some health educators need a master's degree, such as the Master of Public Health, if they are interested in working for the government.

Certification Requirements

The NCHEC states that certification eligibility is given to anyone who holds a post-secondary degree in a health education field (www.nchec.org). The post-secondary degree can be a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. Eligibility requirements also include courses that prove you can critically assess what a person or group needs to know in public health, as well as have the ability to conduct thorough and valid research on health topics. You will also need to demonstrate that you can provide adequate medical resources and advice to people.

Successfully passing the exam gives you the CHES credential. However, you need to enroll in 75-credit hours of continuing education courses every five years to maintain your certification status.

What Do Employers Look for?

Many employers, especially from academic facilities, want CHES workers to help teach students about healthy living while in school and for their future. At the same time, many CHES workers are needed for administrative staff and general offices to help the workers manage their lifestyle at work and after work better. Some recent job postings as of April 2012 include.

  • An Illinois university wants a CHES, preferably, for their student health center. The candidate will implement student health initiatives aimed at health promotion, while marketing health topics across the general student body.
  • A Utah university wants a CHES master's or doctoral degree-holder to be a public health teacher and lecturer. Must be able to teach general health concerns ranging from first aid to the foundations of health sciences to undergraduate and graduate students.
  • A New Mexico university wants a CHES consultant to help with departmental health education. The job candidate needs to inform administrative and academic departments about fitness, healthy eating and stress management.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Continuing Education

One investment to increase your credentials in the field is to gain a graduate degree. As some job postings highlighted, holding a master's degree opens up teaching opportunities at colleges. The graduate degree could also give you the opportunity to train peer counselors who may directly speak to students privately or in groups, according to the BLS. The BLS also adds that many government jobs welcome or require master's degrees for their CHES workers.

Get Specialized

According to the BLS, many non-profit organizations focus on advocating for various causes in human health. Learning about one particular field of human health, such as sexual health or smoking, may increase your likelihood to work at a non-profit for advocacy purposes.

Alternative Careers to Consider

High School Teacher

If you want to teach students about health in a classroom setting, you may be interested in becoming a high school health teacher. You will need a bachelor's degree, and in some states a master's degree, in addition to state certification. You would need some student teacher experience, where you are given preparatory opportunities to teach and sit-in on classes. However, the incentive to teaching is that your passion in public health can translate in teaching a year-long or semester-long curriculum to multiple classes. In contrast to CHES and other health educators, however, high school teachers will see a 7% growth rate between 2010-2020. The median salary for a high school teacher, according to the BLS, was approximately $54,000.

Nutritionist

If you want to work directly with people and focus on lifestyle issues like diets, you can become a nutritionist. Like a health educator, a nutritionist tells a person about the nutritional value of certain foods and how to incorporate healthy eating into their lives. Many states require dietitians to be licensed and have at least a bachelor's degree. The BLS predicted that nutritionists would see a 20% employment growth across 2010-2020. The median annual salary for nutritionists was $54,000 in 2011.

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  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

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Kaplan University

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Colorado Technical University

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Northcentral University

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  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

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Colorado State University Global

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Benedictine University

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American InterContinental University

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Penn Foster High School

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